Wednesday 16 – Thursday 17 September 2015
Silence echoed through the empty house where Beth Corwin’s family used to live. Despite being long gone from the residence, the majority of the Corwin’s possessions, now dusty and faded, were scattered throughout the house as if they had left in a rush. Beth sat down on the fourth step of the staircase, and looked at the debris in the hallway, and then out of the open front door. A noise in the kitchen stole her attention, and instinctively she reached for the pistol in her absent shoulder holster.
‘Shit!’ she snapped, remembering she’d chosen to leave the holster and weapon at the precinct.
Cautiously, she rose to her feet, and quietly stepped towards the kitchen on her left. She slowly pushed the door open a crack hoping to see who or what had made the noise. Making the most of the slightly ajar door, a scruffy ginger cat darted from the kitchen, along the hallway, and out of the front door. Beth leapt backwards, terrified by the unexpected visitor in the house. She laughed nervously.
‘Great,’ she breathlessly mumbled to herself, ‘freaked out by a cat. Good job, detective, good job.’
To add insult to injury, Beth’s cell phone chimed into life, startling her as much as the feline guest.
‘Jesus Christ, I can’t catch a break today.’ She pulled it from the front pocket of her jeans, and looked at the caller ID. She answered the call. ‘Hi, boss. Yeah, I’m on my way back to the precinct now,’ she lied. ‘Seriously? You called me to bring back coffee and Danish for you? Oh man, what did your last slave die of? Fine, fine. I’ll bring coffee and Danish. Okay, on my way. Bye.’ She returned the phone to her pocket, unaware that she was being watched from the bedroom that used to be her own.
Standing in the shadows of the bedroom on the first floor, a figure blended into the darkness of the room, completely unnoticed by Beth who had begun to skulk out of the house. At the last second, as she reached the threshold of the front door, Beth turned to take a final look at the inside of the home. A slight movement upstairs caught her eye, and she focussed on where the figure had previously stood. Nothing stood out as being out of the ordinary.
‘Jumping at ghosts . . . and mangy cats. Some detective I am.’
* * * * *
‘Lonnie Corwin, get your skinny ass out here before I drag you out!’
Lonnie cowered in his bedroom. From his hiding place he could see out of the window and into the front yard, but Bart Price couldn’t see in, and even if he could, there was no way he’d have been able to see Lonnie.
‘I won’t tell you again, Lonnie. Get out here. Don’t you make me come in and get you, you little coward.’ Bart took a step closer to the house, but even from that distance, Lonnie could see the terror in the older boy’s eyes.
The front door swung wide open, and Henry, Lonnie’s father, stepped out of the house. A hard working but gruff man, his hands, the size of Bart Price’s head, alternated between fist and open palm.
‘What is it that you want, Price?’ he snarled at the kid. Bart swallowed hard, and took a step back from Lonnie’s father.
‘N-n-nuthin’,’ stammered Bart.
‘Nuh-nuh-nuthin’? You don’t want anything now? ‘Cause a minute ago you wanted my Lonnie to come out here or you were gonna drag his skinny ass out. Make up your mind, Bart.’ Lonnie’s father stepped forward, and off of the front porch. By his standards, it was a regular sized step, but in Bart Price’s eyes it was the step of a giant.
‘I was just playin’, Mr. Corwin, sir. I didn’t mean nuthin’ by it. Nuthin’ at all. Me and Lonnie’re friends,’ Bart whimpered.
‘Funny, the things Lonnie’s told me about you, you don’t sound like a friend to him. You sound more like a big bully who likes to pound on little kids. And I’ve gotta say, Bart, if I find out that you’ve beat up my Lonnie, or any of his friends, or that you pick on him, you’ll have me to deal with.’
Bart took another step away from Lonnie’s father. ‘No, sir, I wouldn’t do anything like that to Lonnie.’
Henry sneered. He knew exactly the sort of boy that Bart Price was, and that he was just like his father.
‘Then get the hell off of my property, and leave Lonnie alone,’ Henry shouted. Bart and his friends turned and high-tailed it down the street.
‘We’ll fix you, you ol’ drunk!’ One of Bart’s friends screamed back as he ran.
‘I’ll be waiting, tough guy,’ Henry mumbled under his breath.
He stomped back into the house, the door slamming into place after him.
‘Lonnie? Lonnie, you can come out now. Come here, boy.’ There was real affection in Henry’s voice when he spoke his son’s name. ‘Come on, Lonnie.’
Lonnie sheepishly appeared at the top of the stairs. Henry smiled at the boy.
‘Come, Lonnie. Sit with me.’ Henry sat on the fourth step from the bottom, and waited for his son to join him. Lonnie hung his head and, stair by stair, made his way down to sit with his father.
‘Lonnie, why was that Price kid calling you out?’ He wrapped a giant arm around Lonnie’s shoulders. Lonnie shrugged.
‘It’s okay, son, I won’t be mad at you. You’re only little, and that Bart Price is big enough to know better. Now tell me what happened.’
A tiny little voice squeaked out the story of why Bart Price was after Lonnie Corwin.
‘The boy’s an idiot, son, plain and simple. You be sure and tell me if he tries to hurt you again.’
Young Lonnie nodded. He snuggled himself into his father’s side, and closed his eyes. For now, Lonnie Corwin was safe from the town bullies.
. . . To be continued . . .